SALINA — Kansas senior citizens could be required to buy hunting and fishing licenses after this year.
For decades, residents 65 and over have been exempt from the annual permits that currently sell for about $18 each.
Chris Tymeson of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission said Thursday that the agency will ask the Legislature to remove the exemption. He said the request is being made to ensure continued funding for the agency as the average age of sportsmen continues to increase.
Those currently exempt would not be grandfathered in. Exemptions and reduced rates for landowners would continue.
As well as increased direct funding, the additional number of hunting and fishing licenses sold would qualify the department for more federal funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Federal excise taxes are charged at the sale of most hunting, shooting and fishing equipment. Those funds are distributed to states based on their number of hunting and fishing licenses.
The federal funds are often given on a matching basis of about 3 to 1. They currently pay for most of Kansas’ 1 million-plus acres for the Walk-In Hunting Access Program.
Tymeson, the department’s attorney, had no figures about the number of hunters and anglers currently exempt from state licenses. Mike Miller, Wildlife and Parks information chief, said the number is tough to track but said that since 2006 the number of Kansans 65 or older purchasing deer permits has increased 25 percent.
The department will also request that Kansans 65 and older no longer get reduced rates or exemptions for state park fees.
Tymeson said the agency will seek legislative permission to create an annual vehicle “Kansas Park Passport” to be sold to residents when they renew their vehicle permits. The passes would be optional and valid until the vehicle’s permit is renewed the following year.
In the past, Robin Jennison, the department’s secretary, said that if 10 percent of Kansans purchased the passes, it could double park income.
Tymeson said the agency would like to see the state park changes begin as early as July 1. The removal of exemptions for hunting and fishing licenses would begin in 2013.